Thursday, March 5th, 2009
Sentence called cruel in fatal accident appeal
Schwieterman files appeal to conviction
By Margie Wuebker
A former Chickasaw resident, convicted in the March 2007 traffic deaths of four area residents, is appealing his 24-year prison sentence claiming it violates his constitutional rights against cruel and unusual punishment.
Nicholas Schwieterman's attorneys John Poppe and Eric Allen filed a 19-page brief packet Wednesday afternoon at the Mercer County Clerk of Courts office asking the Third District Court of Appeals in Lima to review the sentencing of the case and rule on alleged errors.
Allen claims Mercer County Common Pleas Court Judge Jeffrey Ingraham violated his 23-year-old client's rights against cruel and unusual punishment by imposing 24 years without parole. The quadruple fatality occurred after Schwieterman, who had been drinking and using drugs, ran a stop sign and collided with a car carrying the four victims.
"It appears that 24 years of prison time in a county where the standard prior was far less for a drunken driving fatality is grossly disproportionate," Allen stated in the brief. "Further, it appears that 24 years in the district without more aggravating circumstances is grossly disproportionate."
The attorney cited other cases, including that of Mercer County resident Donnie R. Neace Jr., who was charged with two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide and ultimately sentenced to two consecutive three-year terms. Neace's wife, Mary, and his friend, Bruce Dysert, were killed after he got behind the wheel of a boat after drinking the night of July 2, 1998.
In neighboring Van Wert County, defendant Luke Reinhart was sentenced to consecutive five-year prison terms after being convicted of two counts of aggravated vehicular homicide in the September 2005 traffic deaths of a married couple. He reportedly drove through a stop sign and struck their car.
Allen believes a happy medium can be reached in the Schwieterman case by reversing the Nov. 12 sentence and imposing a new one without effectively throwing away the appellant.
"No one would argue this offense doesn't require a stiff sentence," Allen wrote. "A sentence which truly punishes is necessary, not one which demoralizes and throws the appellant (Schwieterman) on the rubbish heap of humanity for the period of his young adulthood."
Schwieterman, like victims Jordan Moeller, Jordan Diller, Brad Roeckner and Jordan Goettemoller, were all graduates of Marion Local High School in Maria Stein.
The attorney referred to Marion Local, adding "Sentencing this man to a near quarter century in prison will not keep other Marion Local students from drinking, using drugs and driving. This behavior occurred before the appellant and will continue while he is incarcerated."
Schwieterman, currently incarcerated at the Toledo Correctional Institution, will be 47 years old upon release from prison. "As he enters middle age, he will just be getting started with life," Allen wrote.
"A loss of life is always a tragedy," he continued. "A loss due to poor behavior of another is always infuriating. To sentence those people to the maximum every time would create more prison overcrowding."